- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 9, 2002

Steven Miles misplaced his thinking cap in the waning seconds of the Patriot League championship game inside Bender Arena yesterday.

There were 20 seconds left, American University down one point to Holy Cross, when Miles saw what no one else saw. He saw a chance to be somebody in March. He saw the bright lights, the 4,521 in rapt attention and the ESPN cameras. He saw a shot, or what he believed was a shot.

It was not what Eagles coach Jeff Jones intended in the preceding timeout. His was an easy call in the huddle.

You get the ball to Patrick Doctor, the Patriot League Player of the Year. You get the ball to him and let him make the decision. If you're going to go down, the thinking goes, you go down with your best. You let Doctor maneuver against one defender or pass out of a double-team jam.

The Eagles had just executed that proposition a few plays before the ball wound up in the hands of Miles. The Eagles dumped the ball down to Doctor, who, after feeling the double-team pressure, passed it out to the open Andres Rodriguez standing above the top of the key.

Rodriguez hit the 3-pointer to put the Eagles in front by one point with 1:37 left.

That was seemingly a long time ago, and now, with a berth in the NCAA tournament being decided, the Eagles were maybe only one more play away from taking their place among the appointed ones.

They merely needed to be smart about it. They needed to heed Jones' instructions. They had time, plenty of time, a good 20 seconds, with the best player on the floor at their disposal.

Miles, though, did not see it that way. He saw the basket from the right baseline, just beyond the 3-point line in front of the AU bench. He had a feeling that it was his moment, his time, and so, after catching the inbound pass on the run, he turned and released a shot. There were bodies everywhere, hands, too, and disbelieving eyes all around.

The ball hit the top of the backboard, only to be claimed by Brian Wilson, who converted two free throws with 16 seconds left to give the Crusaders a three-point lead.

That was the game, predictably enough, although there were a few more exchanges by the teams and a missed 3-pointer by Glenn Stokes that could have tied it for the Eagles with eight seconds left.

"To tell you the truth, I have no idea why I shot the ball in that situation," Miles said.

He picked a bad time to go blank. It was not the end of the world for the Eagles, just the end of a strong season unless the NIT feels an urge to call.

"It wasn't a bad shot," Stokes said, giving Miles the benefit of the doubt. "He was feeling it. He got a good look, and he took it."

Doctor finished with 18 points in what probably was his last game as a collegian. He left the game with a series of what-ifs attached to his sagging shoulders.

What if Miles had exercised a touch of restraint with 20 seconds left?

What if the Eagles then had exercised a little patience and allowed Doctor, momentarily fronted by the Crusaders, more time to free himself?

What if Doctor had touched the ball on that possession and even the possession before Miles' ill-fated shot attempt?

On the possession before Miles was overwhelmed by the fog of competition, the Eagles were reduced to a hurried 15-foot jumper by Stokes with the shot clock winding down. The shot drew iron and the attention of Tim Szatko, who missed both free throw attempts after being fouled.

This was an incredibly precious opportunity for a program that never has advanced to the NCAA tournament at the Division I level.

The chance was right there, almost within reach, 20 seconds away, and then it was gone.

"As Glenn said, Steve felt the shot, and he did have room," Jones said. "It didn't go, and it's tough."

It was a tough way to go out for a team that overcame a 3-6 start and two losses in the regular season to Holy Cross.

The team goes out thinking if only it could have that one play back again, those last 20 seconds.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide